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What is the OISC?


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The OISC, or the Office of the Immigration Services Commissioner to give the organisation its full title, is a governmental body established by the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999 to regulate the provision of immigration advice and services throughout the UK. The OISC has around 60 staff.

The OISC was set up to try and prevent migrants and their families getting poor quality or dishonest immigration advice. Tackling bad immigration advice was considered to be important not just for individuals and companies directly affected, but also to be in the public interest more generally.

Essentially, the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999 makes it illegal for a person or organisation to provide immigration advice or services unless authorised under the Act. Solicitors, barristers and chartered legal executives are all automatically authorised as are certain other defined groups, such as council workers operating the Nationality Checking Service. Anyone else who wants to give immigration advice needs to apply to the OISC for authorisation.

What does the OISC do?

The OISC supervises immigration advice in the UK that is not given by qualified lawyers such as solicitors, barristers and chartered legal executives. To do that, it runs a system of regulation for immigration advisers and takes action against those who do not comply with the system.

One of the functions of the OISC is to investigate and prosecute those who give immigration advice, but do not comply with the OISC scheme and are not regulated and not registered. A total of four convictions were secured in 2017/18 according to the OISC’s most recent annual report, although 20 more were in the pipeline. There were between 14-16 convictions secured in previous years, with custodial prison sentences handed down in 50% of cases. One adviser was jailed for five years in 2018.

Where an immigration adviser is regulated, the OISC has powers to audit and inspect premises and deal with complaints. The OISC can prevent a person giving immigration advice by striking them from the register.

How can you qualify as an immigration adviser?

In order to become an OISC-registered adviser, you need to apply to the OISC and show you are a fit, proper and competent person, as well as showing you can manage client files and more. A big part of the application process is passing a test of your immigration law knowledge. These tests take place around once per month in different locations.

In 2017/18, 519 candidates sat the OISC Level 1 assessment. 198 candidates passed and 321 failed. The pass rate was 38%. This was actually an improvement on previous years: the pass rate in 2016/17 was 36% and for 2015/16 was 25% (information from OISC annual report 2017/18).

That means over 60% of people who sit the OISC Level 1 exam fail it. It is therefore a good idea to make sure you know your stuff before you put yourself forward for the exam, if you are thinking of becoming an OISC adviser. We have a dedicated OISC Level 1 training course available to help you, complete with mock exams to help you assess whether you are ready. You can see the full course contents here:

Module 1 Introduction to immigration law
Unit 1 Getting the most out of our course  
Unit 2 How does immigration law work?  
Unit 3 How do the Immigration Rules work?  
Unit 4 The exclusionary principle  
Unit 5 Permission to travel, enter and remain  
Unit 6 Who does what in immigration control?  
Unit 7 How to make a valid application in the UK  
Unit 8 How to make a valid application outside the UK  
Module 2 Visitors, residents and family
Unit 1 Visitors  
Unit 2 Family members of settled residents and citizens  
Unit 3 Family members of migrants  
Unit 4 Private life, long residence and returning residents  
Unit 5 Human rights: Article 8 and best interests of children  
Module 3 Asylum and protection
Unit 1 Who is and is not a refugee?  
Unit 2 Making an asylum application  
Unit 3 Protection status and benefits  
Module 4 Nationality
Unit 1 History of British nationality law and types of British nationality  
Unit 2 Becoming British by birth  
Unit 3 Becoming British by registration  
Unit 4 Becoming British by naturalisation  
Unit 5 Losing British nationality  
Module 5 The EU Settlement Scheme
Unit 1 Settled and pre-settled status  
Unit 2 Application process  
Unit 3 Family members  
Unit 4 Family members of British citizens  
Unit 5 Late applications  
Unit 6 Refusals  
Module 6 Business immigration and students
Unit 1 Highly skilled migrants  
Unit 2 Sponsored workers  
Unit 3 Students and graduates  
Unit 4 Temporary work routes  
Unit 5 Other work and study routes  
Module 7 Grounds for refusal, deportation and detention
Unit 1 Grounds for refusal  
Unit 2 Deportation  
Unit 3 Detention and bail  
Module 8 Appeals and remedies
Unit 1 Administrative Review and Home Office remedies  
Unit 2 Appeals to the First-tier Tribunal  
Unit 3 Applications for judicial review  
Unit 4 Feedback and evaluation  
Unit 5 Mock exams  

When you apply to the OISC to become a registered adviser, you can apply at one of three different “levels” and in one of two “categories”. These levels and categories require the applicant to show the right level of understanding and skills in the right subjects for the work they will undertake.

For example, a charity worker at the Red Cross whose job is limited to helping refugees apply for family reunion on specified forms does not need as much understanding in as many subjects as an adviser who attends the immigration tribunal to argue complex deportation or nationality cases in front of a judge.

Once registered, the OISC will then check that you remain so by investigating any complaints against you, checking that you keep yourself up to date on the law and carrying out audits on your client files.

How does CPD training work for OISC advisers?

The OISC runs a Continuing Professional Development (CPD) scheme for immigration advisers as part of its system of regulation. This scheme changed significantly in 2017. There is no set minimum amount of training that OISC advisers now need to undertake, nor are any training providers officially accredited. Advisers have to decide on their own training needs and how to meet those training needs.

The basic idea of the new OISC CPD scheme is that an adviser has to plan their CPD, do the CPD, record their CPD and then make an annual CPD declaration. An explanatory booklet and CPD Learning and Development Record are available to download from the OISC.

Here at Free Movement we provide lots of online CPD training to our members: over 100 hours worth, in fact. Our courses cover all aspects and levels of immigration law. You can see the range of courses available here.

Where can I find out more about the OISC?

The OISC has a lot of content on its website that you can explore.

There is a lot of information on the OISC website, though, and it is not always set out in a helpful and structured way. We have written a handbook you can download for free explaining the system of regulation, levels and exams.

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Colin Yeo

Colin Yeo

Immigration and asylum barrister, blogger, writer and consultant at Garden Court Chambers in London and founder of the Free Movement immigration law website.